Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Shedding Light on Day: "Unreported Crimes" Code for "Cannabis Offences"

There is a perfectly logical - if disgraceful - reason why Canadian Treasury President Stockwell Day (a Conservative MP) yesterday cited "unreported crimes" as the reason for spending $9B on the building of more prisons.  I submit that, with the phrase "unreported crimes", Day is implicitly referring to cannabis offenses and other consensual drug-related offenses for which minimum prison sentences will be imposed if Bill S-10 becomes law.  The Conservative government's announcement today that it has expanded the range of things constituting "serious crimes" provides additional evidence to that effect

The media yesterday having asked Day to justify that kind of spending while the federal government is claiming to be tackling the deficit, one might have expected Day simply to answer that the prisons were to cope with the effects of the government's Truth in Sentencing Act. Parliamentary Budget officer Kevin Page has already estimated that the cost of implementing that Act alone will be in that range, and the Act passed into law months ago. Yet, with his expression of the government's concern over "unreported crimes" Day implicitly foreshadowed an additional source of pressure on prison resources. 

Most reasonable people no doubt share Liberal MP Mark Holland's view that "unreported crimes" cannot be the reason for building prisons, because unreported crimes are crimes for which nobody is charged or imprisoned. However, that assumption overlooks a few things.

The number one reason for not reporting a crime is the belief that the crime in question is not one meriting police involvement or criminal penalties. Millions of Canadians actively cultivate, sell, and possess cannabis despite the threat of fines and imprisonment. Polls in recent years repeatedly indicate that the majority of Canadians want cannabis legalized even for recreational use. And as any fairly social adult will probably have witnessed, police are rarely called to arrest someone who is cultivating, selling, or possessing cannabis. There is, in point of fact, mass civil disobedience, and a benevolent conspiracy of silence, with respect to cannabis offences in Canada. For this reason, cannabis offenses are arguably one of the most frequently occurring - if not the most frequently occurring - "unreported crimes" in Canada.

Day is not necessarily making the absurd suggestion that those whose crimes are not reported will be imprisoned. He is saying that those who are charged with committing a cannabis offence - a widely "unreported crime" - will soon be sent to prison in much greater numbers. The actual purpose of the government's prison expansion plans is to accommodate the anticipated impact of the Conservative government's "National Anti-drug Strategy", when one of its key components - Bill S-10 - passes into law.

As one source painfully acquainted with the effect of the Harper government's Americanesque drug war agenda explains, the number of sexual assaults, homocides, and other violent offences is fairly constant, year after year, as is the number of people convicted of such offenses. Indeed, as the population ages, the number of such crimes will decrease. Even if incarceration durations for such crimes were doubled, that would hardly put a dent in the prison population. Billions of dollars in additional prison funding is not needed for those sorts of offences, but billions in additional funding will be needed to build prisons for the anticipated thousands of non-violent cannabis (and, to a lesser extent, other drug) offenders who Bill S-10 will soon subject to mandatory imprisonment.

To understand what is at stake politically for the Conservatives, a bit of history must be kept in mind. In late 2006, the Harper government attempted to fulfill an election pledge to repeal the recognition of gay marriages. A late 2006 motion to revisit the issue of gay marriage failed, leaving unsatisfied social Conservative yearnings for a war against Canada's changing culture. However, gay marriage was only one of two major cultural changes in Canada that steamed social conservatives in recent years. The other was Canada's changing laws on cannabis.

A 2000 decision in Ontario's Court of Appeal made cannabis a legal medicine (it remains so to this day, though federal and provincial governments have failed to provide adequate safeguards for physicians - who face concerns of losing their licenses to practice should they prescribe cannabis - and to ensure that patients have the cannabis they are prescribed). In 2002, a Senate report recommended that recreational cannabis be legalized, and a House of Commons report released shortly thereafter recommended that imprisonment be replaced with a system of stiffer fines (a recommendation known as "decriminalization"). The Canadian Alliance, then led by Stephen Harper, condemned those proposals on the ground that they would further inflame Canada-US relations at a time when Canada's Liberal government had refused Canadian involvement in America's war against Iraq (Harper's Alliance opposition had indicated that it wanted Canada to join in the war against Iraq). Elections in 2004 and 2006 scuttled the Liberal government's decriminalization plans, and Harper's Conservatives formed a government with the smallest minority in Canada's history.

By October of 2007, the legalization of cannabis was supported by 51% of Canadians (a number that crept up to 53% a year later). However, the Conservative government having let down its social conservative base with respect to gay marriage, it announced it would be launching a "National Anti-drug Strategy".

Conservative MP Tony Clement (the same Tony Clement who is now trying not to smirk as he passes himself off as a libertarian defending long-form census takers from the abuse of government coercion) at that time was Canada's Health Minister. On September 29, 2007, the Canadian Press quoted Clement thusly:

"In the next few days, we're going to be back in the business of an anti-drug strategy," Clement told The Canadian Press. "In that sense, the party's over."

Clement, together with none other than Stockwell Day (who was then Public Safety Minister), attended Prime Minister Harper's October 4, 2007 press conference, wherein his $63M anti-drug strategy was announced. Given that the anti-drug strategy was a significant bone thrown to the Conservative party's religious, social conservative constituency, rather than to the relatively secular majority of Canadians, it should not surprise the reader that the press conference was held at a Salvation Army headquarters (in Winnipeg).

Of the funding there announced, two thirds was to be directed at the social aspect of drugs, including a counter-cultural campaign. Harper explained:

What we are up against, in trying to resolve this problem - what the police are up against, what the people who deal in treatment and prevention are up against - is a culture that, since the 1960s has, at the minimum not encouraged drug use and often romanticized it; romanticized it, or made it cool; made it acceptable. And look, as a father, I don't say all these things blamelessly. My son is listening to my Beatles records and asking me what all these lyrics mean. And, you know, it's just there, it's just out there, I love these records, I'm not putting them away. But, that said, the reality is that there has been a culture that has not fought drug use! And that's what we're all up against! No easy solutions to that but we have seen, in the case of tobacco, a shift in the culture, in a way that has rendered tobacco use less and less socially or culturally acceptable. I think we need to do the same thing - I think we need to do it much more quickly and much more critically - in the area of narcotics.

(Almost two years to the day later - with pot culture icon Marc Emery imprisoned in British Columbia for his romanticizing of cannabis culture - Harper would attend a widely-reported arts gala to play piano and sing the pot-inspired Beatle's tune "I get high, with a little help from my friends".  Oh, the sickening hypocrisy.)

On November 20, 2007, the Harper government introduced Bill C-26. Titled An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the Bill proposed doubling the maximum term of imprisonment for cannabis-related crimes: from 7 years, to 14 years. It also proposed a minimum sentence of 6 months imprisonment for the cultivation of 1 to 200 cannabis plants where the purpose of growing the cannabis was to sell it. Higher mandatory minimums were proposed for greater numbers of plants, or for other aggravating factors. The bill passed second reading on April 18, 2008, but the dissolution of Parliament for the 2008 election killed the bill. Bill C-26 was re-introduced as bill C-15 and passed third reading on June 8, 2009. It was then sent to the Senate.

In late 2009, Liberal Senators outnumbered Conservatives in the upper chamber. On December 3, 2009, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs adopted a motion by Liberal appointee Senator Serge Joyal wherein the 6-month minimum sentence for growing 5 to 200 cannabis plants (in the absence of aggravating factors) would be removed. Later that day, an infuriated Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appeared on CBC's "Power and Politics" program, and exclaimed:

They've taken the mandatory penalty out, and so we're very unhappy with this...we take this very seriously, and we believe that people should have a mandatory jail time for people who are in the business, in the grow-op business.

Liberal members in the House of Commons having supported Bill C-15, Nicholson accused the Liberal Party of using Liberal Senators do their "dirty work" for them. Show host Evan Solomon asked the Minister a question akin to that put to Stockwell Day just yesterday:

What about the notion that this is going to be very costly. I mean, the government said on one hand 'we don't want to have a huge deficit, we want to control spending costs'. On the other hand, building more prisons and taking more people in is an expensive cost. How do you mitigate that?

Nicholson's answer:

I can tell you that we wanna get the message out to people under the National Anti-Drug Strategy. Many people will be seeing advertisements running right now across this country, discouraging people, educating them about the problems of taking drugs in this country. We want to help individuals to get them off of drugs in this country and not to experiment with them.

In other words: imposing mandatory minimums will cause people to stop breaking the law, so fewer people will get imprisoned and the costs of prisons and incarceration will thereby be mitigated. With so many millions of Canadians growing, selling, and possessing marijuana despite its criminality, we are supposed to believe that what is perhaps the most "unreported crime" of all in Canada - cannabis "crime" - will suddenly tail off so much as to offset the effect of mandatory sentences of imprisonment imposed upon people who normally would not be sentenced to any jail time. The Minister's credulity on this issue is almost unbelievable.

The amended Bill C-15 passed third reading in the Senate on December 14, 2009. It then awaited the final step in making a bill a law: royal assent. Section 2 of the Royal Assent Act, 2002 provides:

2. Royal assent to a bill passed by the Houses of Parliament may be signified, during the session in which both Houses pass the bill,

(a) in Parliament assembled; or

(b) by written declaration.

The key words in that section are "during the session". The effect of "prorogation" - wherein the Prime Minister advises the Governor General to end a Parliamentary session - is that all bills that have not received royal assent before prorogation die. On December 30th, 2009, just 16 days following third reading of bill C-15 in the Senate, Parliament was prorogued, killing the bill before it received Royal Assent.

Was the prorogation motivated, at least in part, by government's desire to have C-15 passed into law without the Senate's amendments? In other words: just how much priority is the Harper government placing upon its war on Canada's cannabis culture? Consider three things.

First, it should be noted that the Senate had debated C-15 far more than any other bill in the Senate: 62 hours, 3 minutes. At the time of prorogation, only 2 other bills had passed the stage of third reading in the Senate: C-6 (regulating dangerous consumer products) had been debated for 37 hours, 42 minutes; and Bill S-8 (which implemented a tax-evasion treaty with South American countries) had been debated for 1 hour, 49 minutes.

Second, soon after proroguing Parliament, Stephen Harper appointed five more Conservative Senators. This was enough to give Bill C-15 a good chance of passing third reading in the Senate without amendments.

Third, before the new session of Parliament began, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was asked whether any of his crime bills would be re-introduced. He was not certain about any except one: Bill C-15, he said, was certain to be re-introduced. Indeed, Bill C-15 has since been re-introduced in the Senate as Bill S-10, in its unamended form. Having already been debated on three days, Bill S-10 has yet to pass second reading in the Senate. With a greater number of Conservatives serving in the upper chamber, it now seems much more likely that mandatory minimum sentences for the tiny fraction of cannabis-using Canadians caught committing what are usually "unreported offenses" will soon be a reality.

Now, quite apart from the issue of prorogation, Nicholson today announced that the government had, on July 13, 2010, passed a new regulation that makes 11 less-serious offences "serious offences".  Among them: "trafficking in any substance included in Schedule II in an amount that does not exceed the amount set out for that substance in Schedule VII (subsection 5(4))".  Cannabis and hashish are the two Schedule II substances referred to.  The new regulation makes trafficking in less than 3kg of either of those substances a "serious offense".  The Canada Gazette summary for the regulation explains:

Expanding the availability of the criminal organization provisions creates the possibility that individuals may be subjected to longer periods of incarceration because it makes the use of the criminal organization offences possible. (emphasis added)

In addition to imposing longer periods of incarceration, the change essentially eliminates some of the pesky procedural hoops - also known as "due process in a free and democratic society" - through which police have to jump in order to arrest people for cannabis offenses.  Clearly, cannabis, and the Conservatives' war on Canadian culture, continues to be top-of-mind for the Conservative government.

I submit that the evidence strongly supports the conclusion that Harper's anti-cannabis culture war is actually the centrepiece of his entire government agenda for that large percentage of Conservative supporters who see cannabis users - and homosexuals - as plagues on Canadian culture.  The money be damned: this back-bone of the Conservative Party sees Canada's popular embrace of legalization as a threat to the 1950's style, clean-livin' Canada of its spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child youth.  The so-cons see cannabis cultivators, sellers, and possessors as snakes from whom Godly government must deliver them.  If they cannot persuade Canadians to embrace their prohibitionist views, they will continue to demand of the Conservative Party that it lock-up cannabis-tolerant "liberals", and leave them to rot.

I suspect strongly, and angrily, that we are going to need those prisons. However, I am reasonably sure that the majority of Canadians - given an alternative to seeing their children criminalized, marginalized, imprisoned, and otherwise having their lives destroyed so that religious conservatives will keep voting Conservative - would prefer an intervening election.


UPDATE: Well, well, well.  Will the "coincidences" never cease?  It was reported on Facebook that, at about 5:25 PM today (approximately 2 hours after the above blog was posted to my own site, http://blog.paulmckeever.ca), police again raided Toronto's C.A.L.M. cannabis compassion club.  Imagine that: an evening news program in which there will be "proof" that the Harper government "needed" to make the regulatory changes announced earlier today.  Makes me wonder if I should charge for soothsaying.

Posted by Paul McKeever on August 5, 2010 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (23)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anti-legalization pot growers

David Boaz over at Cato@Liberty comments on a group of marijuana growers in California that fear legalization will mean a drop in prices and a corresponding drop in their own income. This seems to reinforce the argument that the one thing that criminal organizations fear the most is legalization (though to be fair these old hippies are pretty benign criminals). It just goes to show you that economic interests aren’t always what you would assume them to be.

Mr. Boaz also posted this old Reason video

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on March 30, 2010 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Federal Government Sponsors Drug "Research"

I love science, I am a fan of it; good science that is.

The Federal Government is funding research into the relation between smoking marijuana and mental illness.

"Science has shown that cannabis may actually trigger the onset of psychosis and may also intensify the symptoms for those who already have a psychotic illness," (Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy) Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) said in announcing a grant of more than $550,000 to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

The grant of $559,370 is the largest Health Canada has ever provided to the society, he said.

The money is part of Ottawa's $30-million national anti-drug strategy, announced in 2007.

So the Federal Government, which is court ordered to produce medical marijuana in Canada, which has announced a stronger anti-drug strategy in recent years, is funding research into marijuana and it's negative effects, with funds from the national anti-drug strategy...

Do you think the study will be bias at all?


I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on August 19, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (112)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Botanical Revolution

Marc Emery, the Prince of Pot, will be turning himself in to U.S. authorities in September to serve a 5 year sentence for various charges related to his marijuana activism. That activism consisted of selling marijuana seeds to people through his mail order business from his downtown Vancouver store front.

He was interviewed about his upcoming incarceration, civil disobedience, marijuana laws, and other legalization subjects on this past Saturday's edition of liberty talk show Free Talk Live.

Listen to the MP3.


I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on August 13, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (256)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Government Grow-op Shut Down

The Federal Government has been growing marijuana in an old mine in Flin Flon Manitoba for 9 years for the 300 people that receive the plant from them for medical purposes. The company that has been contracted to grow the pot for Health Canada, Prairie Plant Systems, says that they ceased operation June 30th because they couldn't secure long-term access to the mine since it's owner, Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, is closing it down in 2012.

The government's marijuana program licenses certified medical users to grow their own pot, to have someone grow it for them or to buy it straight from Health Canada. More than 1,400 Canadians are authorized to possess marijuana for medical purposes.

I find it strange that Health Canada was tasked to grow the pot for medical use. Does Health Canada manufacture Demoral? Morphine? Tylenol 3 or any other pain killers available by perscription? Nope. The drug manufacturers do that, and they do a better job of it. If medical marijuana alone was opened up to drug companies you would have some level of competition at least that may improve the quality of the product; government pot doesn't have a great reputation as far as quality is concerned.

The government says it's okay for them to have a grow op, but anyone else that does so is raided, arrested and possibly shot at. It's hypocritical.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 21, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (41)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Legalize It - Part 1

Legalize it, all of it.

Let me make very clear that I do not advocate most drug use; I think that using some drugs is generally bad. I have never used “recreational” drugs in my life, ever. I think our society would be better off if many drugs didn’t exist; but they do, and there is a demand for them, so they continue to be manufactured and sold.

Prohibiting and controlling drugs does not stop some people from having the desire for them, that is unlikely to go away; as long as these desires exists there will be a demand and market for them, and some folks will be willing to meet that demand, whether it's legal or not.


Do you believe that you own yourself? If you truly own yourself, then you are free to keep yourself as fit or as fat as you want. If you truly own yourself, then you are free to put into your body what you want, be it apples or marijuana.

The principle here is self-ownership; you own and are in charge of yourself. Because of this, you are responsible for yourself (provided that you have the mental capacity to be) and are free to make good or bad choices, provided that those choices don’t violate the liberties of other people. Using harmful drugs is generally a bad choice in my opinion, but it is one that you have the right to make as it harms yourself directly, just like eating too much fatty food or listening to your Ipod at full volume all day.

Obviously, there are social consequences of using drugs and the possibility of becoming addicted; you may be ostracized from friends and relatives, if you have people financially depended on you they may be negatively affected. There will be indirect effects on people from your actions no matter what you do, these cannot necessarily be controlled or measured, that’s why the focus is on the actions you can control; your own.

Legalize Marijuana

It’s harder for the general public to hear the message of “legalize ALL drugs”, it’s not something that is often heard, therefore I will focus on the legalization of marijuana, though the arguments for it’s legalization will apply to other drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth etc.

Though is has been shown that there are medicinal benefits to marijuana, the reason for it’s legalization is still based on the principle of self-ownership, but I will look at some of the common arguments for and against it, while still holding the self-ownership principle as the main reason for why it should be legalized.

Decriminalization of Marijuana in Canada

Think of the waste that goes into policing drug users. 30,000 people in Canada charged ever year. That means that every one of those people were dealt with by police, then entered into the system, paid fines, court dates, etc. The amount of bureaucracy needed to deal with this is staggering. Now, all of those people have criminal records. They will have a harder time getting a job, crossing borders, finding suitable housing, etc., all because they choose to put something into their body. That is not good for them or good for the rest of society as they may end up drawing on welfare or other socialized programs becasue of the lack of opportunities a criminal record may bring them.

So the point comes up, then why do them? As a non-marijuana user I cannot answer that, other to say that people have been suing this substance for many years, and it's illegal nature has not dettered many of them or halted the drug trade. To some folks the risk is worth it.

Every April 20 at the Legislature here in Winnipeg, you will find thousands of people lighting a blunt in open protest of the illegality of marijuana, yet there aren’t swarms of police coming down to break it up. Yet they will spend time going after people in their homes, on the street, etc. Why this inconsistency? Even the police realize that possessing marijuana is not a serious enough offense to warrant shutting down this peaceful protest. This seems like an inconsistent, hypocritical position.

The problem isn’t the police, it is the law, and the beaurocrats that make the law.

The Government are Drug Dealers

Speaking of hypocritical positions, even though growing, possessing and distributing marijuana is illegal, the Canadian government continues to do it to this day.

Health Canada looking for marijuana grower

Government pot is grown in an abandoned mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba, and used for medicinal marijuana. The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been well established, and Health Canada recognizes and approves its use.

Health Canada - Medical Use of Marihuana

Health Canada grants access to marihuana for medical use to those who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses.

Yet, you aren’t allowed to grow your own medicine if you so choose, the government has to do it for you and give you a piece of paper that allows you to have it. Why is the goverment in the medicine business? Is there Province of Manitoba brand ibuprophen? No one else is allowed to provide this approved medicine, only the government.

This is another government monopoly like Manitoba Lotteries and MPI, making the bearuocracy larger, demanding tax money to grow pot.

I wonder how someone who is against the legalization of marjiana would feel knowing that they are paying to grow and distribute it.


What would happen if pot was legalized? We can look at history to find out. In the early 1900’s alcohol manufacturing, distribution and possession was made illegal all over North America.



When something is outlawed, it creates a black market for that product or service. When something is in the black market it inherently becomes more dangerous because it needs to be under the radar of law enforcement. It becomes the product of gangs and organized crime, and prices get very high, and violent crime surrounds it. This is what happened with alcohol prohibition; people didn’t stop drinking, they just had to do it underground. Once alcohol prohibition ended, so did the violence and crime surrounding it’s manufacture and distribution. Do we currently see turf wars or gang crime with alcohol distribution? No, it went away when prohibition went away. The same thing would happen if the prohibition against marijuana was ended.

Let’s look at this realistically. If marijuana wasn’t prohibited, how would people get it? Likely the same way people get alcohol and tobacco; large companies will grow and sell it and you can buy it at the corner store. Plus, you will have companies selling “home growing kits” so you can grow your own. You won’t need to buy it on the street under threat of arrest and the prices would be lower because there will be a large, safe supply and legal ways of obtaining it.

If people could choose between a drug store or a thug on the street, where would they be likely to go to buy marijuana?

Arguments Against Legalization

If murder wasn’t on the books as being illegal, would people murder each other? Laws don’t dictate behavior, marijuana is illegal right now yet people still use it, the law doesn’t stop that. If it was legalized, people who were going to do it will still do it, and people who weren’t going to do it won’t. There is a taboo in doing something illegal, and once that taboo is gone, then a small part of the thrill is gone.

In September 2007, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reported that marijuana use in teens have gone up (opens PDF).

(marijuana use)use is reported by 17 per cent of students in grades 7 to 9, about 29 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds, and almost half of 18- to 19-year-olds

Would arresting 50% of Canadian teens do them any good? How would that help them in life? It won't stop them from using the drug, just put them into the legal system and make it harder to move forward with a productive life.

Let’s look at a place where pot is less restricted, Amsterdam and some of Australia. The usage of marijuana in those areas is actually lower than that of the U.S.

Marijuana Prohibition Has Not Curtailed Marijuana Use by Adolescents

This report shows that the prohibition of marijuana in the United States has not curtailed adolescent marijuana use.

                 United States   The Netherlands

Total Population      31.1 [a]           28.5 [b] 
Young Adults          47.3 [c]           45.5 [d] 
Older Teens           38.2 [e]           29.5 [f] 
Younger Teens         13.5 [g]            7.2 [h] 

To say that legalizing marijuana would lead to an increase in use is not what the evidence shows.

In March 2009,the Cato Institute put out a report about the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal.

Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

You can see the policy forum and presentation of this report at the Cato Institute website.

Also, to call marijuana a “gateway” drug is misleading. Using marijuana does not mean that you will then use, cocaine, heroin or other harmful drugs. It is most of then the first one that people will use because it is the most common and least expensive. Calling marijuana a gateway drug is like calling beer a gateway drink that means you will start misusing alcohol and more potent drinks, it is not necessarily true. Most people first encounter beer, it is less expensive than harder drinks so it is naturally what would be encountered first.

As for sending “conflicting messages” to young people, I say, let them make up their own mind. The message we can send is that some things are good for you, some things are bad, you choose which you’d like to do. In fact, I wouldn’t call marijuana “bad”, no more than I would call having a beer “bad”. I’m going to teach my children to choose for themselves, no conflicting message there.

The argument that marijuana is harmful doesn’t stand up either. Yes, it can cause some harm to the body, but if we were to outlaw things that were harmful then perhaps we should be outlawing salt, butter, etc. By this reasoning, anything harmful to an individual should be prohibited. Well, then here are a few other things that should be banned then.

If we truly own ourselves, then we are the ones that choose what we can and can’t put into our bodies. If we choose to harm ourselves with drugs, or salt, or getting fat, then that is also our choice.

I welcome any comments or corrections.

Please keep comments on topic and cordial. Insults and ad hominems may result in deleted posts.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 9, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (509)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Marc Emery’s “Farewell Tour” rolls through Banff: A report by Krista Zoobkoff

Marc Emery’s “Farewell Tour” rolled through Banff, Alberta on Monday for an event hosted by Krista Zoobkoff, Libertarian Party candidate for the riding of Wild Rose in the last federal election.

In a report for the Western Standard, Zoobkoff wrote:

Marc and Jodie Emery made their way to Banff on their second stop in the Marc Emery "Farewell Tour." The event was teetering on shaky ground, as we prayed for the weather to clear up. The event was held at the gazebo in central park at 4:30 p.m. just as the rain stopped. One hundred Emery supporters braved their way to the outdoor venue, making the Banff stop on the Farewell Tour a success.

Emery is being extradited to the United States for his conspiracy to cultivate marijuana. This is a man who is going to lose his freedom for his part in selling cannabis seeds over the border to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This was an act that was non-violent and that had no victims. Cannabis seeds don’t contain THC or any other intoxicant.

As a Canadian, I am outraged at the United States, the DEA, the RCMP, and the Conservative government that has not come to the aid of a Canadian citizen. Canada is not going to be safer with Emery behind bars, further showing the incompetence of the Harper government. The Emery extradition has been a burden to taxpayers, leaving Canadians to suffer the loss of a family member and a friend. These are our tax dollars hard at work.

Emery is going to prison and there is nothing we can do about that. Our next fight is going to be to put pressure on the Conservatives to transfer Emery to Canada so he can do his time where he will be safe and have access to his family and friends. So don’t rest just yet and stay informed on what we can do to get him transferred to Canada.

Thanks for the update, Krista.

Banff marc    

The "Farewell Tour" will be in Lethbridge this evening and Edmonton on Thursday.

(Picture: Marc and Jody Emery in Banff, Alberta)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 7, 2009 in Marc Emery, Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (55)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Marc Emery's extradition hearing delayed "to finalize an agreement with U.S. prosecutors"

Picture 2

This is the interesting part:

Emery’s lawyer, Ian Donaldson, told B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Anne Mackenzie he needed more time to finalize an agreement with U.S. prosecutors that would end the need for the hearing.

Donaldson noted that two of Emery’s co-accused have pleaded guilty to their part in a scheme in which marijuana seeds were sold for use in grow-ops south of the border.

He said that since the pleas by Michelle Rainey and Gregory Williams were entered in Seattle last month, he has been in discussions with the U.S. prosecuting counsel.

“He and I have a general framework capable of resolving the case for Mr. Emery.”

Donaldson said that under the agreement, Emery would consent to be committed for extradition on one of the three criminal counts he faces. He noted that the Canadian authorities are opposed to such a move.

More here.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 25, 2009 in Marc Emery, Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (146)

Friday, May 08, 2009

California considers legalizing marijuana

There's positive news on the war on drugs coming from south of the border, where California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signalled his willingness to debate the issue of legalizing marijuana:

As California struggles to find cash, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday it's time to study whether to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.…

"Well, I think it's not time for (legalization), but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?"


Fortunately, there's a growing body of evidence that experiments in decriminalization and legalization have produced positive results. The Cato institute recently took a look at Portugal's experience with decriminalization and found it to be quite good:

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Another study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry offers an evaluation of various marijuana policy regimes and makes the case for decriminalization:

The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong.…

Our judgement, based on review of the research literature, is that at present the primary harms of marijuana use (including those borne by non-users) come from criminalization: expensive and intrusive enforcement, inequality, shock to the conscience from disproportionate sentence and a substantial (though generally non-violent) black market.

Likewise, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health compared marijuana use in Amsterdam and San Francisco and found very little difference in the rate of cannabis use, despite big differences in how the two cities regulate the drug:

If drug policies are a potent influence on user behavior, there should not be such strong similarities across such different drug control regimes. Our findings do not support claims that criminalization reduces cannabis use and that decriminalization increases cannabis use. Moreover, Dutch decriminalization does not appear to be associated with greater use of other illicit drugs relative to drug use in San Francisco, nor does criminalization in San Francisco appear to be associated with less use of other illicit drugs relative to their use in Amsterdam. Indeed, to judge from the lifetime prevalence of other illicit drug use, the reverse may be the case.

If only we could get our politicians talking seriously about legalizing marijuana. Besides issues of freedom and liberty, there are many economic reasons why Canada should get serious about reforming our outdated drug laws. If Canada were to adopt the illicit drug policies of the Netherlands, the costs associated with prohibition would be marginalized in the areas of policing, judicial processes, and health services. If the sale of marijuana were to be legalized in Canada, the respective costs associated with policing would decrease due to the fact that Canadian society would not ensue the corresponding costs of arresting people for the consumption and distribution of the drug. Likewise, the judicial system would not incur the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating individuals for marijuana related transgressions. Furthermore, the corresponding tax revenue that would be accumulated through the legalized sale of marijuana could be used to enhance education and rehabilitation programs that would effectively marginalize the negative externalities associated with illicit drug use.

Update: It's been brought to my attention that a new poll shows that 52% of Americans support legalizing marijuana. While this is promising, there has also been some criticism of how the poll was conducted. More from Reason Magazine.

Update 2: Rob Breakenridge has a great column in the Calgary Herald, which compares coffee to marijuana and highlights the ridiculousness of keeping a plant illegal:

As federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson puts it, coffee is "the currency that is used to bring other more serious drugs into the country."

Accordingly, the government has tabled legislation to, among other things, impose one-year mandatory jail time for selling coffee.

Oops . . . did I say coffee? How embarrassing. Of course, it's quite ridiculous to suggest that we would criminalize the sale or consumption of coffee. Oh sure, prohibiting the sale of coffee would immediately make it the purview of organized crime, thus making it a "currency" of sorts. No doubt such criminal elements would employ violent tactics in obtaining and protecting supply and territory.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 8, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (126)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another good drug war article

You've heard it all before from me, so without further ado here's another good article on the drug war from CNN.

And here's an excerpt:

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons...

h/t: Steve, who says: "Either you have drugs and violence on the streets, or just drugs. Seems like an obvious choice."

I'll second that.

Posted by Janet Neilson on April 10, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (29)

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Economist: legalization "least bad" way to deal with failed drug prohibition

DrugsFinal Pat Buchanan, writing about "The Drug War's (Other) Afghanistan," by which he means the violence-drenched state of Mexico, asks "Which is the greater evil? Legalized narcotics for America’s young or a failed state of 110 million on our southern border?"

The Economist newspaper has an answer; they argue that the lesser evil, for drug producing and drug consuming states alike, is legalization:

Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.

“Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain.

Read the rest.

(h/t Mark Frauenfelder)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on March 6, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (31)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Reefer Madness: The Southern Avenger on Michael Phelps

Our favourite paleoconservative vlogger Jack Hunter (aka The Southern Avenger) shares his thoughts on Michael Phelps and marijuana -- and he's absolutely shocked that "a 23-year-old Olympic gold medalist worth millions of dollars with celebrity to match" likes to party with the ganja:

More Western Standard coverage of Phelps and the debate over marijuana here and here.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 6, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (15)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

States' rights Obama tunes down the War on Drugs

Good news. One of the hopes of marijuana reformers, libertarians and decentralist conservatives in an Obama presidency looks like it will be fulfilled. No, DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries are still continuing, but the White House is promising that, in accordance with Obama's campaign promises, its not for very long. The Washington Times reports:

The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.

“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Read the rest.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 5, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (22)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Celebrate Repeal Day with a small victory: US Supreme Court won’t challenge state medical marijuana laws

It’s Repeal Day!

Today marks the anniversary of the December 5, 1933 repeal of alcohol prohibition in America.

While the war on other-drugs stills rages with similar results and consequences, we should celebrate the small victories in drug policy reform.

Americans for Safe Access reported this week that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a landmark decision in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws."

This move by the Supreme Court should mean that the federal government will no longer obstruct marijuana law reform initiatives like those seen in Michigan and Massachusetts in the last U.S. federal election.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 5, 2008 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Monday, December 01, 2008

Could the Coalition for Canada save Canadian publisher Marc Emery from a lifetime in a US prison?

In some ways, and at least until the end of February 2009, I consider myself a single issue non-voter...an activist publisher with a single, overriding personal agenda -- to stop the extradition of Canadian publisher, free market drug policy reformer, marijuana seed distributor and friend, Marc Emery.

Why is this a priority for me?

Well, taxes are likely to stay within a fairly narrow range regardless of who is in power and what we do as activist writers and opinion leaders (that's you, Western Standard readers). The left is worse than the right on taxes, no doubt, but only marginally so. Even the left understands the law of diminishing returns, which reminds them that they can’t raise taxes too much before revenues actually begin to fall. (Think of the state as a highly evolved parasite. It usually knows not to kill its host.)

The size of government will also ebb and flow superficially according to whatever is politically expedient and, to a lesser degree, the prevailing ideology. We can’t ignore that the Harper Conservatives increased the size of government, which will ultimately make future tax cuts more unlikely and deficits harder to avoid.

And nobody in a position of authority is advocating for limiting the scope of government. I can’t think of any serious move in recent history to eliminate entirely a specific function of government. (Correct me if I'm wrong here.)

So while we should not abandon these big fights for lower taxes, smaller government and more economic liberty -- in fact, we should steel ourselves to re-fight and re-win the battle of ideas in the realm of free market economics -- there is no immediacy here. It’s a medium and long term project, even in the face of a global financial crisis.

Where I see the need for real immediacy and real opportunity to "make a difference" is in the scheduled extradition hearing of Emery. If it hasn't been postponed again, Emery faces an extradition hearing in February 2009 for DEA charges related to selling marijuana seeds to the US.

Emery is the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and a marijuana policy reformer. His marijuana seed business financed his activism, which attracted the attention of the DEA who wanted to cut the flow of money to the marijuana decriminalization movement. Politically motivated DEA agents arrested Emery in Canada and now want him extradited to the US to face a possible lifetime in jail. The punishment in Canada for the “crime” of selling marijuana seeds -- when it is in fact punished -- is a small fine.

There are a number of good reasons to oppose the extradition of Emery. First, there is the issue of Canadian sovereignty. Canadians have chosen, before the Harper Conservatives took over, to take a liberal approach to drug policy. In this political climate, Emery operated his seed business openly, paid his taxes and even helped Health Canada connect medical marijuana users with his reputable marijuana seed distribution company – Marc Emery Seeds.

Second, there is the injustice and failure of drug prohibition. Canadians understand that drug prohibition has been a failure, and there is little appetite for a US-style war on drugs. From every corner of the political spectrum, there is opposition to marijuana prohibition in particular.

NDP leader Jack Layton, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, junior Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, former Canadian Alliance MP turned Liberal Keith Martin, Conservative MP Scott Reid, senior Conservative cabinet minister and former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day -- the list of politicians who think the current marijuana laws are unjust and unworkable is extensive. Extraditing Emery in this environment would not reflect public opinion or the collective views of those who make up the official political culture in Ottawa.

The life of a man who has dedicated his career to advancing liberty hangs in the balance, and it is one of those fights that can be won. In fact, the current disorder in parliament and scramble for power could end in Emery’s favour.

The Coalition for Canada (CFC) is the possible Bloc-Liberal-NDP coalition that hopes to form a coalition minority government to overthrow the Harper Conservatives. If successful, this coalition will set back the movement to reduce the size and scope of government – but, let’s be honest, that movement has not faired well under Harper or any other national leader. The coalition might be useful, however, in blocking the extradition of Emery and repudiating the Harper Conservative’s vicious and ill-considered drug war agenda.

In an interview with Emery today, he said “Keith Martin as Health Minister and Libby Davies in Justice would be great news for medical marijuana legalization.” Emery also said the coalition would likely “reduced penalties for other pot offences, and certainly bring an end to my extradition proceedings.” (I'm sure the guys in charge of "black ops" for the Conservatives will attempt use this comment from Emery to move public opinion against the CFC by suggesting they have ties to radicals.)

I will not go as far as to welcome a Coalition for Canada government, not even for Emery. But should this coalition of socialists be foisted on Canadians, I’ll hope for a happy ending for my friend Emery and for the repudiation of a misguided drug war surge strategy being advanced by the Harper Conservatives.

There will be little else to hope for.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 1, 2008 in Marc Emery, Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heroin, yes; marijuana, no

Interesting story from Switzerland:

Swiss voters have backed a change in health policy that would provide prescription heroin to addicts.

Final results from the national referendum showed 68% of voters supported the plan.


The policy is described as one of last resort - prescribing addicts with the very drug that caused their problems in the first place - but supporters say it works, and Swiss voters appear to have agreed, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne says.

At the same time, Swiss voters rejected a plan to decriminalize marijuana.

Recent studies suggesting that long-term use of the drug may be more harmful than previously thought looked likely to encourage a "No" to decriminalisation.

Early results showed only 36.8% of those voting supported decriminalising cannabis, the Associated Press (AP) news agency said.

If only marijuana was as addictive as heroin!

No, not really.

Posted by Terrence Watson on November 30, 2008 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who owns you, Michael Coren?

I listened to part of the show today on 1010 CFRB Toronto called Two Bald Guys With Strong Opinions

Today's show was two guys arguing for and against CCTV cameras on public property. It was my first time listening in, and I was driving so I couldn't call in and the phone number was not mentioned. I don't know whether the hosts just pick a side for the sake of the show, or whether Michael Coren was really taking the point of view of the surveillance statist. I'm going to assume he means it.

He put one caller on the spot (who brought up the Patriot Act) by insisting he name one government program that government had actually taken advantage of. The guy choked up, maybe a little nervous. But Michael had, in the previous three minutes, brought up human rights abuses by the HRCs (freedom of speech and expression, after all, is a human right). In light of this, why doesn't Michael name us one government program that hasn't failed or been abused by government in some way? 

It was surprising and sad when Michael characterized libertarians as people who don't fully believe in the rule of law. In reality, all libertarians know that freedom is impossible without the rule of law protecting the rights of individuals. Maybe Michael just doesn't know enough about libertarian political philosophy. Here you go, Michael, why not learn about it from an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand source: Wikipedia. Or an even shorter version from Cato's David Boaz here.

Coren is in favour of the use of CCTV cameras. He's even in favour of using them to catch people for consensual crimes -- he said they should be used to catch drug dealers. In practice, that means users too. His argument is essentially an argument for a surveillance society that will help prop up the failed war on drugs.

I hear they now have loudspeakers on some of these cameras in the UK so that bureaucrats can bark orders at people if they throw a candy wrapper on the ground.

These cameras have been abused already to spy on people inside their own homes. Take a look at this, Michael. How many of these cases go unreported?

The thing that Michael needs to know is that in Canada we love our civil liberties and we don't want one camera per 14 people like in the UK. But adopting other countries' bad ideas is something governments do best. So maybe ours will adopt CCTV cameras with Michael's endorsement.

I heard a guy call in and say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Michael did not disagree. I heard that line from a Mountie who wanted to search my car. He said if I don't allow him to search my car, then that means I have something to hide. It was because of this illogic that I refused the search. The mounties don't have a right to search my car unless they suspect that there's something illegal going on. And refusing a search is not a reason to think that something illegal is going on. It's reason to think that I don't want some stranger looking through my stuff. It's also reason to think that I like freedom from tyranny.

I heard this same newspeak from Michael. He said that CCTV cameras on government property liberate us. That is like saying war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. 

This is the London, England that Michael Coren wants for Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and so on.

So Michael Coren, who owns you?

Posted by Lindy Vopnfjord on October 23, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Freedom of expression, Marijuana reform, Media, U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack